It has been a while since finishing Being Consumed, but it is worth sharing some thoughts on each chapter. This is definitely a book I will read over and over again, so I will not attempt to summarize the chapter. Instead I will share what I gleaned and my own thoughts.
The author points out that consumerism is not an attachment to things. This is often what people assume. Materialism = attachment to things. Consumerism is actually detached from things. Everything is disposable. We are not attached to our cellphones or iPods. We are attached to the idea of these things and the meaning or identity-making they give us. This is something consumerism has in common with Christianity (a detachment from things) and points to its religion-like nature.
Cavanaugh concludes the chapter by considering the central sacrament of Eucharist as an antidote to consumerism. “The act of consumption is thereby turned inside out: instead of simply consuming the body of Christ, we are consumed by it” (54). He then adds this brilliant quote from St. Augustine, “I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.”
For so many Christians it seems that the Lord’s Supper is an individual transaction between the believer and God, like salvation. If that is the case, then the Eucharist only serves to commodify Jesus into a grace dispenser, the priest a vendor of holy goods. If instead that sacred meal unites the individual to the community and transforms them into the likeness of Christ then it is the most anti-consumptive act that we can partake in.
I think in many ways we have only begin to scratch the surface of the disease that has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. We do not understand the very nature of our modern condition until we are willing to peel back the veneer of the shiny and new to see the fruits of a consumer culture.